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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

8           HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

unrecorded ages were Aryan or ,/Egean in their immediate past
it is not necessary to ask. They are really a common feature of
all barbarian life irrespective of race, and, as our own fairy tales
show, they linger on in some form among the most civilized
peoples. What makes them important here is that they indicate
that the traditions of barbarism were a vital factor in the social
life of Greece even in historic times, and so enable us to get by
comparative methods to the beginnings of education and other
institutional activities.

Following this clue, we are taken back to a time when in-
dividuals with some common character—people, for example, of
the same age, sex, or occupation, or having the same totem—
were wont to form subordinate groups inside the tribal organiza-
tion with a view to safeguarding themselves against the mysterious
influences of the unseen world around them. No one dared enter
or leave such a group lightly. A change of group in consequence
of any change in conditions called for the observance of the proper
ceremonial to keep the entrant to a new company right with the
divine powers that were concerned with both old and new*
Most important and most common of all the secret initiation
ceremonies were those performed when the boy at puberty left
the company of the women and children and took his place among
the men.

Though, as might be expected, such pubertal initiations vary
greatly in detail in different ages and in different parts of the
world, they show a surprising uniformity in their fundamental
characteristics. First the youth must make a complete break
with his family by leaving the home and living in seclusion for
some considerable time. During this period he is generally
subjected to ordeals of one kind or another—washings, fasting,
flogging, loss of teeth or finger parts, circumcision—often ending
with a pretended burial and re-birth. Once admitted to man's
estate he has to learn the mysteries appropriate to his new station,
He may be shown magical instruments or objects symbolizing
superhuman facts, be taught formulae that are of use for certain
situations in life, and be instructed regarding tribal traditions
and customs, more especially in the matter of taboos and marriage
laws.

„ ^re were great educ*tional possibilities in these pubertal
taitfettans. The dread constantly hanging over primitive peoples